Barbra Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: You are both currently working on the horror short story “No Place Like Gnome,” which will be included in the upcoming horror anthology Skin Crawling Comics. What drew each of you to work on the anthology?
Paul Chapman: I’ve always been interested in horror, so when my friend and fellow author Rachel Pandich sent out word that she was looking for artists and authors to help her compile a new horror anthology in comic book form, I volunteered my services. I had a pitch for adapting one of my short stories that Rachel liked, and I had the training I needed to write a comic book script from my education at Full Sail University. It was synchronicity.
Josh Hoye: I've always been a fan of a well done horror story. My wife is Ashley Lanni (Hoye), and she's involved as well. So, it sounded fun to do. Once I read Paul's story, I knew it was a perfect fit with my style.
BD: How did you come to work together on this project? Was your artist/writer pair for the anthology assigned by the editor, or did you choose to work with one another?
PC: I had never met with Josh beforehand. I originally was going to pitch “No Place Like Gnome” to Edmund Dansart, an artist whom I met through Rachel. Edmund has illustrated the covers of two of my publications, Porn Gnomes and Other Strange Tales and Sasquatch Rides a Harley. But, Ed was already working with another writer, so with Rachel’s help I connected with Josh. I was looking specifically for someone who could draw in a light-hearted, cartoony style, and Josh brings a tremendous artistic talent to the project that was a perfect fit for the material. Once I saw his portfolio, I knew he would be the right person for the job.
JH: Like I said, I had to find a story that would fit my style. A lot of my work is on the goofy, cartoony, humorous side. So, I asked Rachel (the editor) to find me a good one. Paul's story couldn't be more perfect. It's not super scary . . . just enough blood to make it creepy. It's very clever!
BD: Paul, as the writer, what inspired you to tell this story, and what can you tell us about the premise?
PC: If anything, “No Place Like Gnome” is a send-up of the zombie apocalypse subgenre that seems so ubiquitous in horror fiction these days. I thought it would be interesting to take that tired premise and replace the lumbering dead with something innocuous. Then, I remembered an incident from my high school years, when my mother went out to fetch the morning paper and found that our front yard was overrun with garden gnomes. Combining the idea with the memory resulted in “No Place Like Gnome.”
BD: Given that “No Place Like Gnome” is told only through its art (as there is no dialogue), did this present unanticipated challenges in the writing process?
PC: The original short story that served as the basis for this comic is filled with description and dialogue, but it was actually liberating to tell the story in pictures, using no words except for a few sound effects. Likewise, the need to stay within a limited page count was actually advantageous to the writing process; I had to distill the story to its purest essence, and I’m quite proud of the results.
BD: Josh, did you have an idea in mind for the art style when you first read the script, or has the artwork developed as you have worked on the project?
JH: I did. We both kinda wanted the same thing, black and white. I added the red in to really make it pop. As far as style goes, I wanted it to have a certain feel, like Twilight Zone meets Hanna Barbara. Since there are no words, it's all about expressions and lighting.
BD: Do you prefer working with a specific artistic medium (ie: pencils and ink, paint, charcoal, etc.), and what can you tell us about your artistic process for this project?
JH: I work in and enjoy all mediums. I've done a few stories for Image Comics' Pop Gun anthology and used a variety of mediums there. I always mix in some element of natural into my digital pieces, whether it be a scanned in wood grain or paper textures. For this story, I used a couple different textures throughout and some scanned in paint splatters.
BD: Will “No Place Like Gnome” be appropriate for readers of all ages, and would you recommend the story for both casual and hard-core horror fans?
PC: I’d say it’s appropriate for all ages, but I also have a wicked urge to frighten little children, so I might not be the most reliable person to gauge that sort of thing. I would recommend it to any horror fan that enjoys a little humor mixed in with their tales of the macabre. I hope the hardcore fans will appreciate the satirical elements, too.
JH: I think this story is just enough on the creepy side that a hardcore horror fan will enjoy and laugh, but my cartoony style makes it lighthearted to the point that all ages can follow.
BD: What are your feelings on the horror genre as a whole, and what do you hope that this story will bring to the genre?
PC: Horror is one of my favorite genres, but too often I think it lacks pathos and instead prefers to wallow in the vicarious thrill of putting miserable people through miserable situations. I hope that “No Place Like Gnome” can show that there is room for both humor and heart in a horror tale, even if it inevitably ends badly for our protagonists.
JH: Our story reminds of The X-Files. I mean it could be one of the episodes. I hope that by the time someone gets to the end of the story, they are smiling. It's got that little kicker at the end that makes you "get it."
BD: Are there any specific horror genre creators or projects (movies, books, comics, etc.) that have inspired your work?
PC: While I enjoy the work of horror authors from H.P. Lovecraft to Poppy Z. Brite, I draw the bulk of my inspiration from Robert Bloch. His horror always has a streak of morbid humor running just beneath the surface, and no matter how serious I try to be when writing a terrifying tale, invariably I find myself slipping puns into the paragraphs.
JH: That's always a tough question to answer . . . I always get blown away by Dave McKean and the super intriguing Tom Neely.
BD: Skin Crawling Comics is an independently produced project that features creators of all experience levels. As readers await the finished anthology, are there any other projects on which you have previously worked that you would recommend to our readers?
PC: Although horror is not the primary focus of my collections of short stories, I do include some frightening tales in Porn Gnomes and Sasquatch Rides a Harley. I think readers may get a charge out of “Ordinary Man” in the former collection and “The Dead are Never Brave” in the latter. Both collections are available on the Amazon Kindle store.
JH: Image Comics' Pop Gun Vol. 1 and Vol. 2
BD: What impact do you hope that Skin Crawling Comics will have on today’s comic book industry and its readers?
PC: I hope Skin Crawling Comics serves to remind readers that there is more to the comic book medium than costumed superheroes and Scott Pilgrim. Sequential art can be as rich and as varied as the stories we wish to tell with it, and that includes stories designed to disturb and unsettle. I hope the readers enjoy what we have to offer, and if it leaves the sort of impression in someone’s mind that made EC Comics a target for concerned parent groups back in the fifties, so much the better. I hope we get under your skin, and I hope that we can do it with class and distinction.
JH: I hope it opens people up to new artists and writers that aren't under a big book label. It should show people that there is amazing work being done outside of the mainstream noise. And, I've seen that happen with my wife's comics "Aspire" . . . it's got a cool, little following who love it and can't wait to get the next issue. I really hope that Skin Crawling Comics goes on to produce more volumes with more writers and more artists!
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for readers to find out more about your work?
PC: I’ve recently transformed one of my blogs into an author’s webpage. If you visit The Silicon Chickens Project at siliconchickens.wordpress.com, you can find samples of my writing in podcast form, as well as links to my published collections and other projects I’ve worked on. I also host a podcast called The Greatest Movie EVER! Podcast at gmepodcast.com where I talk about films of all kinds, but with an emphasis on speculative fiction: fantasy, science fiction, and horror.
JH: You can find the most up-to-date stuff on my Facebook or my blogs: